Name: Julia Cortopassi
Hometown: Davis, CA
Who says fashionable women can’t be brilliant, too? A quick glance at the list of accomplishments of Yale’s red-headed vixen, Julia Cortopassi, proves any naysayers dead wrong.
Expert at all things fashion (Julia has costume designed 8 plays, 6 fashion shows, and 2 films at Yale), her fascination with clothing began at a young age. That’s not to say that her boundless freedom was without consequence: “My parents thought of expression and creativity as deciding for yourself what to wear and how to present yourself to the world. So, from the moment I’ve been able to put on clothes, I’ve been doing it myself. Some of the things I’ve chosen have been absolutely hilarious; it’s always been a ‘dress-up’ thing. It is like costuming yourself, trying on different identities and personalities.”
I asked Julia what her favorite “personality” is to try on. With virtually no moment of hesitation, Julia responds, “The ethereal. The fairy thing. I’ve always wanted to be a fairy. My favorites are chiffons, gauzy materials, flowery materials, anything that makes me feel like I could have magical powers.” Deep down, I assure her, every girl wishes she could be a fairy princess. That being said, not everyone can design fairy ensembles for herself and her friends like Julia did in her sophomore year of college.
The magic all began in Southern California, where Julia was born and raised until the sixth grade. Then, her family moved to Italy. When she returned to California a year later, Julia became highly involved in competitive volleyball. Needless to say, she excelled in it; Julia was recruited to Yale for volleyball.
But that wasn’t all that she was looking for in college. “I wanted to meet really interesting people who had worked very hard at what they are interested in and are interested in new ideas. When I visited, I met one girl who took me through her portfolio. She was working on a show where she had to make this paper-mâché cow’s head. She was totally inspiring.”
At Yale, Julia dove into the fashion scene immediately. “I wanted to do a lot of fashion design. I designed for Pretty in Pink in 2009. It was a wonderful experience. I put four pieces out, and I was hooked.”
Julia discovered her passion for fashion largely in thanks to one of life’s ever-so-annoying lemons. “In junior high, I found out I had scoliosis and had to wear a back brace. I didn’t want to wear baggy clothes, so I made my own clothes. That is how I got into fashion and into the making of it.”
One particular outdoor, Greek-inspired show sticks out as Julia’s favorite that she’s done thus far at Yale. “It was absolutely crazy. I had ultimate freedom. I had a big budget and made everything by hand. I got my materials from California and brought them back to Yale. Because it was an outdoor show, there was no backstage…every female costume was convertible.”
Now, Julia just wants to do “something where I can explore human behavior. Possibly marketing, perhaps some type of research…I just like design and layout, showing information visually so that people can understand it that way.”
Why is the visual, which seems to be the root of all of Julia’s interests, of value? “In this era of technology,” Julia explained to me, “we have more and more information constantly coming at us. It is easier to understand and process information visually,and keep people informed that way.”
This in mind, it is easy to understand why Julia has spent the past couple of summers exploring different modes of expression. After her freshman year, Julia spent a summer abroad learning Italian in Siena, Italy, through Yale. Last summer, Julia worked at Rent the Runway, which is essentially the Netflix of designer dresses. She ended up there “as a last minute thing, a family friend gave me a heads-up about the job opening. I e-mailed the CEO of the company, which, at the time, was pretty small, and the head of college marketing there helped me out. In just two days, I decided to spend the summer in New York.”
What is something about Julia, I asked, that no one would be able to guess at first glance? She smiled, giggled a bit, and confessed that something she really loves is “stand-up comedy shows! I really love improv. My favorite group is purple crayon by far. More people should go to shows. It’s different than watching TV, more interactive, and just inspiring to see these Yale kids who are so funny on the spot.”
If you happen to be in the Dominican Republic over Spring Break, Julia would be more than happy to find the hottest improv group in town with you. If you can’t make it, look out for one of the many shows Julia is costume designing this semester!